I am not a religious person. I’d say I’m more spiritual and philosophical and I usually reject too much emphasis on holly books, regardless of their background. I do not think someone knows absolute truths on this Earth, but we rather have different perspectives and we’re guessing most of the time. This doesn’t prevent me to study various opinions and sometimes notice convergence points. In this blogpost I will talk about one of those cases.
Our Human Spirit by Witness Lee is a deeply Christian book. It is full of quotes from the Bible and this proves that a lot of work has been done in the background to put everything together. It’s a book I got from one of my cousins from the UK. It was a challenge to read it, given my general repulsion for Semitic religions (Christians, Mosaics & Muslims), which I judge guilty of a lot of violence against the human life. But I was in for a surprise.
Traditionally, we see humans as made of a body and a soul. Well… this book went into several translations and careful study of the biblical texts and found out that there are in fact 3 parts: the body, the soul and the spirit. Personally, I didn’t know this, as the Christians aren’t too concerned about this kind of details. Using quotes from various places in the Bible, the author managed to describe the Soul as similar to the Mind we know from Oriental religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.). I don’t know if this is a forced comparison and the texts were skillfully manipulated, or it’s really a common point. But if it’s a common point, it’s a huge one…
In short, according to the author, the Bible tells us to deny “our thoughts, our opinions, our ideas, our concepts, our love, our wish, our will, our decisions and our choices”. To sum up, we should deny our mind, our reasoning, our desires and our emotions. We should deny our very own Self (Ego?).
Sounds quite radical, but this is exactly what I heard from Oriental religions: we should give up our mind, our emotions and our will, these 3 parts making up the Mind or the false Ego. What’s left is our Consciousness – some sort of spiritual matrix on which our emotions, sensations and thoughts arise.
If you look again at the enumeration above, you can see why there are irreconcilable differences between the existentialist psychology and spirituality: we are supposed to give up our will and our choices… our free-will, to put it simple. I don’t know how many of us would feel comfortable to lose our sense of control and deny our ability to decide what’s going on in our lives… even if this function is passed to our divine essence or spirit. This is one of those moments when our very existence as spiritual beings is put into question, and it’s a moment of profound doubt for many of us. Can we give up free-will? Can we trust ourselves? Are we trusting our immortal spirits?
The advantage of this apostasy? Satisfaction, joy, peace, harmony and freedom – ways through which we can verify we’re living under the guidance of our Spirit.
I do have a problem with giving up free-will: we’re also giving up responsibility. If the Spirit is the one who decides in our life, then we’re supposed to simply obey the inner drive. This would be absolutely ok in a perfect world, in an ideal world. But in our world, full of manipulative individuals who would find pleasure in substituting themselves to God (which has already been done several times in our history), I’m afraid that giving up free-will will result into anarchy or the ruling of a small “smart” minority over a huge mass of docile people. If you think I’m a bit too paranoid, I invite you to have a look at North Korea: those people have given up their Soul (mind plus emotions plus will); they are not thinking for themselves, but it’s the Leader who thinks for everybody; they are not feeling own feelings, but rather feel what is appropriate, mainly love for the Leader (and I must acknowledge they are sincere in their love for the Leader); and finally, they are not taking their own decisions, but are seeing themselves as little wheels from a bigger system; they have given up their free-will and responsibility and therefore, they don’t have a life of their own. I think we should meditate on North Korea a little bit before giving up our Souls…
Now, going back to the book, I found it very interesting when the author added some nuances: there is a difference between “the life of the Soul” and “the faculties of the Soul”. In other words, the people of North Korea do use their faculties of the Soul: they think, they feel emotions and they take decisions; what has disappeared is the life of their Soul, their Locus of Control. Now it’s the Leader who decides. To put it differently, “they are lived by their Leader” or “the Leader lives them”. The problem is that the Leader is not God. Another problem is that those people were born into that system, so they couldn’t choose otherwise, knowing only one perspective – the Leader’s.
Even if the entire situation is rather repulsive, recent studies in neuroscience have proven that our thoughts, emotions and decisions originate in our unconscious mind several seconds before they are made conscious. In other words, Someone is already living us. We’re just having this thought, that emotion and we’re taking that decision, being completely unaware that things are well known at unconscious levels well before we actually experience that thought/emotion/intention. So, in fact, free-will and responsibility are absent, neuroscientifically speaking.
In this blogpost I connected Semitic religions, Oriental religions and Neuroscience. All of them say the same thing. Our common-sense as European civilization and some schools of psychology take a different stance. We do have a body, a soul/ego and a spirit/self/consciousness. But losing or denying the life of the soul, as a construct that helps us to navigate through this imperfect world, remains debatable.
~ Thank you, Patricia!
1. After writing this article, and while correcting the paragraphs, the Paris attack happened. I felt I needed to react. I have no issues with Islam, but I have issues with religions and with my freedom to criticize. I’m living in a country where we experienced dictatorship and repression for half of a century. We know how it feels to be afraid to speak and how you should carefully weight your words. Cowardice has become a national trait in my country and this is also because of people like the ones who killed the journalists of Charile Hebdo. Therefore, I will always defend the idea of freedom of expression.
2. The attackers do believe in God. They are lived by their God. Their thoughts, emotions and actions are not theirs, but are subjugated by what they perceive as God, following indoctrination. They are, in my view, lacking free-will and are totally irresponsible. They couldn’t choose otherwise, as they were raised as children by Muslim families and in an Islamic tradition. They believe they are doing the right thing. They will die for their convictions and become martyrs. Their families will be honored by their actions, by their deaths. They will receive the news of their deaths with joy. And all this happens because we’re living in an imperfect world, where people are lived by doctrines, by religious egos, and were never challenged to find their true spiritual selves and experience the state of pure consciousness. That’s why we need to develop ourselves into spiritual beings and not religious beings. And that’s why I blame the entire Islamic belief for the attack; every single Muslim shares the responsibility of those deaths. It’s a collective responsibility.